I remember taking my last high school exam. It was a two-hour Physics paper. We’d all done at least five other papers, some in the space of very few days. On the one hand, there was that sense of impending relief, an impatience to finally be done with it. To open the door of the examination room and never ever have to find oneself in such a physical setting again. On the other hand, there was the matter of a university place at stake. It took quite a bit of undeveloped teenage discipline to muster the will to complete the exam without carelessness.
I imagine that this is what Quilt (or any other band) felt like at Le Divan Orange. A 6-week continental tour, culminating in a stop in Montreal. They could’ve performed on autopilot, most songs well-rehearsed by now (indeed, there were no setlists taped near their feet), tossing out song after song like coins into a wishing well. While it did seem to start off like that, after a few tunes and some healthy attempted-bilingual banter, the band put their foot on the gas.
Normally a four-piece (John Andrews: Drums; Anna Rochinski: Guitar, Organ; Shane Butler: Guitar; Keven Lareau: Bass), they had June West on keys, freeing up Rochinski to play sweet lead guitar. While Rochinski also sang lead for most of the songs, everyone shared vocal duties, resulting in some blissful harmonies, especially on ‘Padova’. Of note is how Rochinski’s voice in a live setting takes on a more soulful lilt, while Butler’s is almost a throwback to British baroque folk. Lots of British bands sound North American, yet Butler sends his accent in an opposite direction.
As is Quilt’s modus operandi, the guitars veered from funky (punchy upstrokes) to psychedelic (picking chords with all five fingers in nanosecond arpeggios, creating a shimmer and echo). Since the show leaned heavily on their latest album’s output, Plaza, which has a fuller sound than their debut Held In Splendor, a lot of their melodies were anchored by Lareau’s bass playing. I’m not qualified to say he’s better than Paul McCartney but I’d say some of those lines were as fun as Macca’s. Lareau also got my vote for laugh of the night, “I’ll speak French if someone gets me a beer. Heck, I’ll speak anything you want.”
A pseudo-encore (the band never left the stage) of four songs was capped off with ‘Own Ways’ — on the album a five-minute tune — turned into an aural assault of reverbed, droning Eastern arpeggios and chugging rhythm guitars. Given the funky psychedelic aspect of the music itself, Quilt sounded like a cross between Pentangle and peak Beatles to me. It’s not exactly derivative. Due to the very unique way everything is meshed, it feels like lifting up one Matryoshka doll after another, seeing a new look every single time. It’s very refreshing to hear music like this when everything else borders imitation. I’m sure Quilt are back in Boston now and if they are indeed sleeping for a week, as Butler promised, then they do deserve it.